12/19/2005, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Child trafficking still going strong in Aceh a year after the tsunami

NGO warns that children who survived the tsunami are still being sold in Malaysia to work illegally.  Illegal adoptions are discovered in Medan and Jakarta.

Banda Aceh (AsiaNews/JP) – A year after a tsunami devastated Indonesia's Aceh province, child trafficking and illegal adoptions are still going strong, this according to a report by the Center for Child Protection and Study (PKPA).

Achmad Sofian, PKPA's executive director, said that many tsunami children are in the hands of criminal gangs in Malaysia, and that many children from Nias Island have been illegally adopted in Medan, Jakarta and Bandung. To illustrate the claim, he pointed to two cases of Acehnese children sold in Malaysia that the PKPA found.

The first one involved a little girl identified only as I.R., from Lhokseumawe, who was locked up in Binjai, North Sumatra, about two months ago. Her case became public after she was able to escape when the traffickers left the house to arrange a false passport for her.

The second case was that of a 16-year-old identified as S., from Aceh Besar. She apparently knew her kidnappers who had told her that she would be employed as a domestic helper. Later, she realised they planned to sell her to another gang in Malaysia and was able to escape when the gang members tried to get her out of Aceh by bus.  Now, she has been adopted by a government official in Langsa, East Aceh.

Based on its inquiries in Malaysia, the PKPA found that in several places in the neighbouring country, Acehnese teens who had survived the tsunami were working in restaurants despite the fact that Malaysian law sets the minimum age requirement for working at 21, Sofian explained.

"After further investigation, we found that many of their birth certificates were forged to make them eligible. In the passports, their ages were changed so that they could enter Malaysia for work," he said.

The PKPA is also trying to find out whether any teens have been forced into prostitution in Malaysia.

In addition to child trafficking, the Indonesian NGO found that children from Nias have been illegally adopted. According to the figures it gathered between March and November this year, 72 Nias children between the ages of 4 and 12 were illegally adopted.

Sofian explained that illegal adoptions began when people claiming to be from an orphanage in Medan offered Nias parents the "opportunity" to have their children adopted by rich families in Medan. Eventually, parents found out that their children were missing along with the people claiming to represent the orphanage.

"We probed the cases and found that some children were adopted by people in Medan, Jakarta and Bandung," Sofian said.

A spokesman for the North Sumatra Police said officers were investigating the cases.

Trafficking in children, often orphans, began almost as soon as the waters receded after the December 26 tsunami, last year, which killed some 130,000 people in Aceh only.

Four months later, another monster earthquake rocked Nias Island, killing thousands. 

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